The summer of 2002 Elfman showed his lighthearted, fun, and action packed side for Spider-man. As well as showed an even wackier and quirkier side (than he had for the original) for MIIB. Both solid scores, imo. Now Elfman returned to his dark side for Red Dragon. Which is probably his darkest score to date. And that's saying a lot since he's scored plenty of 'em.
I remember how exciting it was to see him score a project like that and a Hannibal Lector movie at that. It was nice seeing him return with Ratner again since I thought they made a great team for The Family Man (2000). I knew of Shore's SOTL score (though I don't own the album) and knew of Zimmer's Hannibal which I also think is a great score. I think he held his own against those too. All the scores fit their specific films. Red Dragon (the film itself )was well made and showed that Ratner can pull off serious material if given the opportunity. I feel that the film is underrated probably b/c it'll often get compared to SOTL and Manhunter (which RD is a remake of). I thought Ratner put in a strong effort and got some strong performances from the cast.
When I first heard Elfman's score I thought it was good. But didn't hold it highly like I do now. The score grew on me a year or two after I owned the cd. I saw the score for what it really was, which I think is a real gem. The score is dense like a lot of his scores today and then. It's another textural score which I love about his scores. You tend to notice the themes more after every listen. Well I did anyway.
I can't find any videos on YT with cues from the score. Someone deleted the videos, oh well. I think the score as a whole is great. Here are some of the highlights. "Logos", "Main Titles","The Old Mansion", "The Note", "Enter The Dragon", "Love On A Couch", "He's Back", and "End Credits Suite".
"Logos" plays the Red Dragon theme during the logos. It's short , creepy, effective and grabs your attention immediately. As well as sets you up for a dark and disturbing movie.
"Main Title" is probably one of Elfman's darkest and most haunting main titles that he's written. It really captures the tone of the film and what's happening on screen. I love how the Red Dragon theme creeps in. I never really heard this side of Elfman before especially at that time. Usually he's held back by humor or something that balances the dark with the light (Darkman and most Burton movies). Though Dolores Claiborne was dark and textural as well and was also very dramatic. Kind of scored like a drama with some suspense music. It also didn't deal with the themes RD did. RD really has nothing to balance the darkness. Elfman really cuts loose and doesn't hold back, which I appreciate.
"The Old Mansion" is a great track. It starts off peaceful and then gets dark. Once the RD theme kicks in. I love the way the track builds up in the film. It's creepy. The theme feels like it scoring a person who's became a monster and who's lost his humanity almost completely. I think this track plays as the RD is lifting weights. Especially as the theme gets heavy and ugly. It's a real clever theme. Elfman does so many variations of the theme in that scene . It's very well developed.
"The Note" is another nice cue. It plays when the janitor finds a note from the RD in Hannibal's cell. The cops try to find what is on the letter b/c Lector burned a part of it. While trying to keep Lector occupied somewhere else while trying to figure what was burned on the note. Very well written cue. Although the track is edited on album. Elfman does so many interesting things with this track that it's hard for me to describe.
"Enter The Dragon" is a very dark track. It opens very dark when the RD kidnaps and tortures his next victim. The RD theme builds up slowly. While building the tension and suspense of what the RD will do to his victim at the same time. The theme gets real horrific as the RD reveals his tattoo of the Red Dragon on his back. The music gets more and more distubing when he shows photos of his victims to his current victim. Then ends softly as if it's over but not for long.
"Love On A Couch" is a another dark and disturbing track. It builds up to the RD theme in a more disturbing way than the "Enter The Dragon" track. B/c the RD is on a date with a blind co-worker and is watching home movies of his victims. While his date is about to perform a sexual act. Probably one of Elfman's most disturbing cues. Then the morning after the one night stand. The RD wakes up to find his lover gone. The RD begins to go crazy and even runs around in the nude looking for his lover in his home . The music goes carzy as the RD does. It really gets inside the RD's head as he decides rather to kill his lover or not. The music plays to the voices the RD only hears in his head. Another well written cue.
"He's Back" is the music that plays as Norton's character and family faces the RD at their home. Very dark and suspenseful track that keeps you on the edge. Elfman pulled out all the stops on that track. I like how the cue wraps up. I remember I got chills at the end when Chilton tells Hannibal that an FBI agent wanted to speak to him about a case. But Chilton told them that Hannibal wasn't interested. After a few seconds Hannibal asks what was the FBI agent's name. I love the way Elfman scores that. It was a good way to set up SOTL since this was prequel.
"End Credits suite" is a really great tarck. And a nice way to wrap up the album. It's even longer than it is in the actual film. He wraps up the themes nicely. It's one my favorite end credits from him.
Overall I think the RD score is a masterpiece. I also feel it's underrated, overlooked and doesn't get enough attention. He hadn't written tracks like "Enter The Dragon" since "Selina Transforms" from Batman Returns. I also think the RD theme is one of his creepiest themes. And better than Zimmer's Joker motif. Elfman's RD theme is how you score a psychotic/ schizophrenic killer. He didn't need a one note theme. This theme is everything that's lacking with Zimmer's Joker theme. But anyway I think this is a very good score. This is another score that shows Elfman's range and maturity as a composer. And people should check out if they haven't. It's dark and disturbing at times, but it's a very well written score.